The Wedge Studios: A Distinctive Artistic Community
Story by KELLY OLSHAN | Photos by SAM RIVKIN
When artist John Payne founded The Wedge in 2002, he had a particular vision in mind. He wanted to create a community of artists. This explains why, for an artist, acquiring a space in the studio was more like being admitted into a juried show, and less like renting an apartment.
“It wasn’t like filling tenants,” says Josh Copus, founder of the Clayspace Co-op. “I really view that as the foundation this building still exists on.”
Over ten years later, after John’s passing, The Wedge Studios carry on his legacy. The collection of buildings on Roberts Street include the two-story Wedge Studios, Clayspace, and The Wedge Building, also referred to as Broken Road Studio.
The artists overwhelmingly agree that working in a group beats setting up a solitary studio. Stephen St. Claire is an artist in the Broken Road Studio whose paintings are known for their distinct textures. Stephen says that working in an artist community "isn't necessary, but it’s a whole lot more fun.”
Artist Joyce Thornburg describes The Wedge atmosphere: “I find it like school, in a way. I’m always getting opinions from other artists, and getting inspired by them.”
The fellow artists share clients, offer advice, and support each other in their artistic and business endeavors. Many have each other’s art in their homes.
Painter Kathryn Phillips explains that Wedge Studio mate Molly Courcelle encouraged her to submit her “Contraption” series into a competition she otherwise wouldn’t have entered. Her work not only got in, but it also attracted the eyes of the competition coordinators and is now being considered as a piece of work to represent the competition.
Bee Sieburg, Molly’s mother, brought artist Ann Hartline into The Wedge community. Fellow cancer survivors, the two met when Ann complimented Bee’s paintings. Bee told Ann to come paint with her sometime. When Ann said she didn’t know how to paint, Bee said “I’ll teach you.” Ann now has her own studio space in The Wedge.
The Wedge artists express their appreciation for the amount of diversity within their building, in terms of both media and experience. The studios house artists in media including paint, ceramics, fiber art, encaustic, mixed media, collage, metal work, illustration, and sculpture.
Below, you can see the real herbs, dried flowers and various other plants Kristin Foley uses to give her acrylic paintings natural texture and dimension.
Some artists have been there for over a decade, while others moved in just months ago. In the spring, The Wedge collaborates to put on a group art show. The artists share the responsibility of coordinating the event, and individually send out invitations. Last year’s event featured every artist in The Wedge community.
The artists also network within their community of artists and friends to create charity projects. “I’m always looking for ways to do something that has some sort of impact,” says fiber artist Naomi Diamond Rogers. Naomi makes head scarves for cancer victims, and embellishes socks to raise money for Sierra Club. Michael Hoffman also creates ornaments to benefit earlier.org, an organization dedicated to researching and detecting breast cancer.
Josh has been in The Wedge for almost 10 years. He and Clayspace’s four other members utilize the cooperative space, sharing ideas, resources, and equipment. Three of them even bartend at the Wedge Brewing Co. “I will remain extremely grateful and thankful for what this neighborhood and what this building has offered me.”
The Wedge artists have something special going on both within their building and the River Arts District. “I’ve been in the art world a long time, and traveled all over the country,” says Broken Road Studio painter Phil DeAngelo, “and there’s nothing that exists like the River Arts District.”
The Wedge Studios is located on 111-129 Roberts Street. For more information about the building and its artists, visit riverartsdistrict.com/the-wedge.html.
Kelly Olshan is a visual artist currently pursuing a painting degree at UNC-Asheville. Sam Rivkin is a recent graduate of Warren Wilson College and art enthusiast.
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